“My works do not explain the world, they change it.”
When looking at that quote above of Carl Andre explaining his own work, you can really read it one of two ways: either you see an artist’s ego shining like a brand new penny, or you see a less vainglorious statement of artistic intention. Going with the latter choice requires a bit more thought, but going along with the idea that the greatest efforts reap the greatest rewards, let’s give it a try… A lot of art seeks to explain the world around us, at the very least by opening up a new way of seeing something that might otherwise appear ordinary, and really you can say the same thing about Carl Andre. So, where is that difference is his works that makes that quote not only not megalomaniacal, but also makes his output so legendary and continually relevant?
Let’s begin to delve into that question with another quote, but this time by Letizia Ragaglia, director of Museion, explaining the show they will open September 16th:
“Staging a Carl Andre exhibition in 2011 is first and foremost an attempt to use his oeuvre to answer this question: “Whatever happened to the art object?” but it is also a suggestion to view his artistic career as a possible, significant option in the era of virtual and mass communications; as the affirmation of an art that wants to change the world by forging a real relationship with it”
That last part about forging a real relationship with the world is really at the crux of it. In terms of sculpture, Andre took a revolutionary stance that he would not try to hew and shape materials. Instead, he would use them without manipulating them, whatever their industrial or artisanal state. As they are placed together, what changes is the space they are in, and also the way we can interact with that space. Andre uses the world as part of his list of materials. If you think of it as “steel panel on space” they way you would “oil on canvas”, it is that determined physicality and direct relationship that lays at the center of an answer to what makes his works so different.
If you’re less familiar with Carl Andre, this first Italian museum show of his work will be an excellent opportunity to start your exploration of his philosophy and objects. If you’ve already been won over, don’t miss the opportunity to see the rarely exhibited Wirbelsäule (spinal column), which was created in Basel in 1984 and is on display in the public space in front of the museum, and Poems, the little known text works that are seminal in terms of Carl Andre’s philosophy and art.
Check it out for yourself at Museion until just after the New Year. You’ll find Museion located in Bolzano, which isn’t just where you can see the famous ice mummy Ötzi with your own eyes, but also the perfect stop when traveling between White Line Hotels Edits Vivere Suites and Rooms and Lagació Mountain Residence. Now you don’t have to choose between the balance of design and elegance at Vivere and the natural tradition of Lagació Mountain Residence. Yes, sometimes it is a perfect world.
Contributing writer: Melissa Frost
Photos courtesy Museion